After massive bus fire, CT pulls electric fleet from service

CT Insider – by Abigail Brone

One day after officials touted the passage of the Connecticut Clean Air Act, including plans for thousands of electric vehicles to hit the road, one of the state-run electric buses caught on fire over the weekend. 

The blaze engulfed a CTtransit bus in a Hamden parking lot Saturday morning, sending two workers and a firefighter to the hospital, officials said.

“Lithium ion battery fires are difficult to extinguish due to the thermal chemical process that produces great heat and continually reignites,” Hamden fire officials said.

Two transit workers were hospitalized as a precaution after being exposed to the smoke. A firefighter was also taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion, officials said.

The bus was delivered in December and began service in January, CTtransit spokesperson Josh Rickman said.

“The bus, last operated on July 20, on routes 243 and 265, and was not in service at the time of the incident,” Rickman said. “Bus fires are rare, but can occur similar to cars. This is CTtransit’s first fire incident with a battery electric bus. Bus operators, maintenance staff and others undergo extensive training and safety protocols are in place.”

As a result of the fire, the electric bus fleet was pulled from service as a precaution, Rickman said.

“The importance of rider safety is demonstrated by taking these buses out of service and ensuring a thorough investigation is completed prior to any redeployment of the fleet,” Rickman said. “We have deployed diesel buses to make sure people get to where they need to be.”

The Saturday fire came one day after state officials gathered in New Haven, including Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti, Gov. Ned Lamont, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes, to boast the success of the Clean Air Act that would restrict diesel vehicles and increase electric cars in the state.

“There are approximately 800 buses that we are responsible for at the DOT that are being replaced with no-emissions electric models. They’re quieter, they emit no emissions and they last longer,” Giulietti said Friday.

In addition to the electric state-run buses, public school buses will also shift to electric models, according to the governor’s statement. The Clean Air Act will also prohibit the procurement of diesel-powered buses after 2023, according to the statement.

The bus fire in Hamden is still under investigation, DOT spokesperson Josh Morgan said.

“The first battery electric buses came into service in the fall of 2020,” Morgan said. “Today, there are 12 electric buses in Connecticut, and approximately 50 planned to be ordered.”

The first electric buses were placed in the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in fall 2020, with plans for three more, according to DOT.

The Bus Electrification Project, a partnership among DOT, DEEP and CTtransit, includes plans for electric public transit buses to be added across the state in the next few years. Twelve battery buses will go to New Haven and Stamford service areas, 10 in Waterbury and three in the University of Connecticut and Windham area.

CT Insider

Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *